"Small" writing challenges for my small writing talent. Hotel note pads are the only space allowed. Let's see if I can strip it down and tighten it up to learn something. Improving my skill of weird fiction.
You will not see many of my teeny stories for a while. Apparently, Sunday, today, begins November and with it begins the mental power-constitutional through the fields of imagination looking for the end result: A 50,000 word minimum novel/novelette. So I am giving you something below this winded multi-part blurb before going semi-dormant for November – a story that’s over 2,000 words! Oh, you’re so privileged to read ‘The posessed best-seller’
In the next thirty plus days, thousands of Michael Chrichton and Jodi Picoult wannabees assemble to write their concepts of a best seller. That sounded negative didn’t it. I want to be supportive! I am supportive! Some of these writers who signed up for the task have more than what it takes. Someone will pound out a world beater. Some great best-sellers came out of this movement. Of course, after prodigious revision and editing. I have also committed to this and I didn’t just write it down and just say I’m going to. I seem to have programmed myself to stress about it already, to outline the story points, to worry about when I’m going to get my words in for the day and, just, know that I’m doing it. It’s what I do. So, I do that. But it’s not what I do. I fly planes, pedal bikes and procrastinate about minor household labor. Since when did I become some sort of perversion of a writer? I dunno. NaNoWriMoNauts assemble!
So here’s the story about a writer with a problem that he just accepts and wouldn’t you know it, he has a better life. Enjoy it. I had fun writing it. If you like it too and wish to share it, please do so. (Just don’t forget where you found it)
THE POSSESSED BEST-SELLER.
She walked out on me. The truth is supposed to set me free isn’t it? I told her I didn’t write it. Something else did. I tried to tell her all about it but she had nothing of the sort and stormed out. I suppose I shouldn’t have left the legal pad out. It wasn’t one of my most productive brainstorming sessions for my next romance novel. The door slammed behind her-I could hear more of her complaining to thin air as her shoes heel pounded down the hall. At the desk I re-read my notes to see what set her off so badly.
I will kill all of your people. You will never stop me.Fed to my slaves, their flesh will fuel my lair! Aaand more variations on that theme. Many more . . . filling up the whole page . . . and four other pages she didn’t see. Yup, what I read would just about do it. I was mostly drunk that night, but holy damn! It wrote that? If anything, this read of pure manifesto.
She was a whirlwind as she left, picking up her things, grabbing whatever clothes she had around the place and stuffing them in her big shoulder bag she wore In the crook of her arm. That was deeply annoying to me-that silly bag. I told her again, it wasn’t me.
“Oh yeah? That’s your handwriting! Those are . . . disgusting things! You’re disgusting! Do you think of this stuff when you’re with me? When we have dinner? Walking in the park? Ugh! How can you write this stuff? It’s filthy! I can’t understand you anymore.” She menaced. She actually menaced at me!
I’m a writer and I found my zone in romance fiction. It’s not softie stuff but it’s not straight up porn or anything. There’s detectives failing to avoid their client’s advances or research assistants and scientists, even the occasional sports romance. My best selling series has an auto mechanic named Brick Heston, Greek descent, Ex-Navy SEAL. In one story, Brick interacts with a scientist, an attractive, tall, recently divorced scientist with a problematic SAAB convertible. Completely believable right? These character combinations were all good for the romantic reader but lately, well, I’ve drifted into another genre. I didn’t want to. It just happened one night. What Beth Ann read was a bit disturbing I admit. I couldn’t help that you see. It wasn’t me. I kept telling her that again and again in as many different ways as I could. She refused the possibility of my points.
But, she left me, thank god now that I’ve reflected on it. The video box-rental movie would have to be returned. I didn’t care now. She picked it out for us. Something that we would enjoy more than those action movies that I like. She never liked aggressive things. Aggressive movies, aggressive men, aggressive cars and dinners. I’ve missed wonderful salsas and hot wings in our time together. Perhaps this is a good thing. Now I have to get rid of the Nissan Leaf electric car she convinced me to buy.
I told her this straight up and now I’ll tell you. How it all happened. Honest to god, It really wasn’t me. It was my hand. Stay with me now, because that’s when she grabbed everything and left and wouldn’t hear the rest, of which you now will. This right hand of mine has bothered me for a while. Sometimes I can’t think of anything but what feels like a small steel ball stuck inside my palm, against the tendons. It twinges. At one point It hurt while writing and every time a tender scene appeared in my story, it became a death scene. I tried to write about a kiss. Here’s the passage my hand actually wrote:
They gazed into each other’s eyes, warm wind caressing their eager faces. He leaned in, SLICING her good and hard on the mouth. His dirty mechanic fingers steered clear of her tight heaving blouse.
Oh god, it was terrible. It’s not the best writing in the first place. None of this mass market romance stuff really is. I know this, but it sells! Especially the e-reader downloads and there I’m doing quite alright. Now, every scene was becoming a murder. Every time. I stopped correcting and tried to finish out the story. I thought I would go back during a draft edit and fix it. That’s the process. I couldn’t make it stop. When my hand hurt, my characters die. The world I built, became a satirical Halloween Maybury.
Out of nowhere, Thomas surprised Lacy with a small bouquet of lovely DAGGERS, between them, pressed to her chest. She slowly fell into his arms with a gasp.
A few weeks ago (This was the night before Beth Ann came over to watch that shitty movie) I cried at my desk and drank a bit. I swear I’m not a heavy drinker-I’ve been the same one-hundred-eighty since college. That night I held a pen in my hand, resting it on a legal pad in case I had an idea. I wondered things out loud, “What the hell is happening? What’s wrong with me? Am I going crazy?” The legal pad had an answer. I didn’t remember writing nor did I feel anything but there it was. My hand writing. Thin black ink.
“Everyone’s going to die. All of your people. All of your town.”
Startled, I blurted out, “Why?” and there, it happened again. My hand quickly scribbled the answer. I felt nothing but that steel ball twinging away.
“They are all petty. Horrible. Self-absorbed, vain and selfish. Those you don’t write about suffer terrible lives in their world at their hands. Their souls are dirty. Dirty souls! They must die!”
I was superbly drunk by then, I’ll admit that. I chuckled, thinking how bizarre it was, like a movie I saw in High School with a missing hand and a chainsaw replacement. Instead of that, I had a pen. So I went with it, just like that movie hero, and asked who and how and where. My hand told me all over the yellow pad, in frightening ways. I had no idea Brick Heston is secretly a kosher-only cannibal. Or, his most frequent customer, the always interested Ms. Mary Lusianne, had a small boy slavery business. By no means was it a small business. Things were so magnificently garish and disturbing I laughed out loud for a good hour quizzing myself, my own hand, about my next story. I became sleepy and bored with the constant monotony of extracations, devil worship and dismembering, saturating my brain with ways to off someone and the constant line crossing into realms that turned my stomach but also, things that would really turn off a reader. There’s a point of story vs. gore. This was beyond gore. My hand began to keep the drink away from me. We were pretty well marinated. I went to sleep thinking how difficult it would have to be living this way. Living as a kosher-only cannibal in mid-west America.
I woke up with more thoughts, well, it doesn’t matter what I was thinking because I immediately saw the legal pad next to my bed. I looked at my hand again. I swear it laughed at me, in whatever way a mime or shadow puppet master could make that happen. I was still drunk. I had to be. That was the only answer. And then, the ache in my palm, went away. I asked myself a question and nothing happened on paper. I wrote some nice things on the pad as a test, how pool boy Cliff gave that town cougar Jane a present in the pool house, and after, she was remarkably ambulatory! The night before, with the twinge, detectives found bits of Cliff in the pool filter. I knew something was, for real last night, very wrong, but I hoped it was a one-time thing and just had to be in my imagination. Beth Ann always said I had big one. Imagination.
Three weeks later, my agent stopped by. I’m lucky enough to live in the same business district as her offices. I guess she was concerned over my deadline, and over my emails. My progress was, how do they say it? Insufficient. She was looking for a new level from number eight in the series. I didn’t realize I was going on a month mixing pain tablets with alcohol. Anyway, announced, she popped over on a lunch break to say hi and cut to the business after I tried to see what twenty minutes of avoiding the subject felt like.
“Is this stack what you have so far?”
“Uh . . . no, it’s more of a side project. You know, new storylines or characters. Nothing good really . . . ”
“Mind if I take a look? You know how your readers have been vocal about the same people and subjects, right?”
She helped herself, in an awfully forward way. Ms. Lusianne of my fake-ass Mayberry tales was very much a forward lady, but more annoying. My agent’s perfume smelled better than what Ms. Lusianne wears in my mind. It’s probably because I haven’t been all that favorably fragrant myself. At that moment I was all a lady could ask for. Bathrobe, stubble, and left over pizza at noon. I still needed a haircut-have for the last few weeks.
I interjected, “I really don’t think that’s the kind of . . .”
It was all useless. I sighed and flopped into my couch. Visions of moving out of the rent-protected apartment grew intense. I was done, like Bill the banker. ROASTED at his family reunion, Brick smiling. Actually, that one wasn’t bad.
She flipped through the first page or two and her eyes locked in. Jaw literally open. I could tell right away what scene she was reading. I, no, it wrote that at four in the morning during a rain storm about a week ago. It involved a merry go round and a chainsaw. At least my hand pain let me keep a village police man alive in there, but not for long. Her fingers gripped the section of pages tightly, her other hand reached behind for the arm of a chair, missing it once before catching it and sitting down. She crossing her feet under the chair. Better shoes than Ms. Lusianne too.
“This-I don’t-oh, awful!”
She giggled and covered her mouth.
“Disgusting! This is – Look, I thought you had lost it. When I got to, right here, the part about the Greek restaurant? Oh, that’s divine. I always wanted to dispose of Helen anyway. But you actually disposed her!”
We wrote of a skewer through Helen’s temple, roasted lamb still on the end of it. I played it up. The last thing I wanted was to lose an agent. “Seriously? I didn’t think I was on to anything. Um . . . Yes, I had enough of her too.” Oh great.
“Oh I think you have something alright. This is pure and awful fun. But, looking at business, we can’t use your regular names, we have to make a different set of people. A different town. I mean, they’re the same people, yes, but let’s change the names to protect the innocent, shall we? You’ll need a new pen name for this but we have an imprint for the work.”
She smiled that flashy smile she always had when I have a good production going. I don’t write this sort of stuff. I get queasy when I do but the alcohol desensitizes the actions a bit. However she’s excited and knows a good thing when she reads it. That’s why she’s a good agent. My hand started to ache again. I rubbed both of them together and then I reached up to rub my neck but my hand patted my shoulder against my will. The ache went away as fast as it appeared. What the hell is this thing? A new pen name? I had so many questions. My hand didn’t answer any of them that night, but it kept writing a name. Repeating. It wouldn’t relent. I finally gave in and it high-fived me, then giving a thumbs up before the pain vanished for the night.
So, that’s how F. Dandy Penderghastt’s debut novel came to be and sold three million copies of all formats. The originally safer and less blood-flowing romances under my real name picked up in sales as well. I found new ideas. I really just used them as a set-up for murders in the new line of books. With all of this work ahead of us, my hand and I have found a balance. I don’t self-medicate it anymore. I’ve gotten used to the feeling of this symbiotic relationship. I accept the pain as a mindful ache. So far, a demon spawn muse living in my hand is an alright thing. The pain shows up after dinner and we get to work-only four nights a week. It demands three-day weekends for some reason. Now, It does get in the way once in a while, slapping my other hand from things it hates. It’s usually right in the end, with an exception. It’s been responsible for five intentional spills of expensive and flavorful craft beers. It wants only the best American mass-market pilsner. If this ache of evil creativity were a real person, I’m thinking it might have a mullet, mustache, and an American flag tank top.
Before I forget, I sold the Nissan Leaf for something more aggressive with leather and taste. I can afford a nicer car to drive, but I told the hand flat out, against it’s wishes, no El-Caminos and no side-pipes. I got something other than a thumbs up in reply.